“If one answer, said in the heat of the moment, is spinning out of control, then that is modern times”
Carlos Sainz is still living with the consequences of his statement that it is ‘unlikely’ that he will stay at Toro Rosso for a fourth season in 2018, said in Austria last month.
Today, speaking to F1.com he has said that “My one and only ambition is to be a Red Bull driver in the future.”
Well he had to say that, one could argue.
Because in the interim there has been robust defensiveness from Helmut Marko and a tough line from Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner that, “We’ve exercised his option as well, so he’s under contract. He’ll be in a Toro Rosso again next year.
“He only got an opportunity in F1 because of Red Bull investing in him in the junior years, and it’s a little disingenuous to be making comments like that. Without Red Bull he wouldn’t be sitting in an F1 car.”
However there was also the suggestion from Austrian colleagues during the Silverstone GP weekend that Sainz has been told by Red Bull’s Helmut Marko that he is free to leave if he pays back the money it cost Red Bull to bring him to F1.
If that means what they spent on him in junior categories then it’s in the €4 to 5m range. Amortised over a three year contract with another team, like Renault, that would be €1.5m a year off the top of his salary, which would make quite a dent in the salary of a driver on that level.
Sainz says today in F1.com that “(it wasn’t nice) Helmut Marko and Christian Horner going against me, but sometimes it happens in F1.” It is possible to come back from a moment like this.
Sainz says he has eyes only for Red Bull, but this is all about hedging bets.
On Red Bull’s side they are hedging their bets against either Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen moving on in 2019. Neither is able to move until the end of 2018 at the earliest. And if it were Ricciardo who left, then Red Bull would have a problem as the Sainz/Verstappen pairing was toxic at Toro Rosso and was instrumental in Verstappen being promoted to Red Bull, along with interest in Verstappen from Ferrari and also the catastrophic start crash in Sochi of Daniil Kvyat.
The chemistry between the Dads was part of the problem at the time and although Carlos Sr is still seen at almost every event, Verstappen Sr is not such a frequent visitor, even if his presence is still felt.
We’ve been around this block before. Sainz had an opportunity of a Renault drive last autumn, but it was blocked by Marko taking up the option. Sainz, stuck in a holding pattern could be forgiven for feeling that his career isn’t progressing as he had hoped. New blood is coming in and there are some quick young drivers like Ocon, Leclerc, Norris lining up to fill seats in the coming years. Sainz needs to progress, much as Sergio Perez needs to progress now that he is a more complete driver than in his ill fated McLaren year.
Sainz feels he has done enough to earn a faster car and a crack at podiums, but instead he’s stuck in the waiting room. This year he has driven with a rage, which may be informed by that sense of being on hold and which has worked for him on some occasions very well. It’s also led him into some difficult moments.
Red Bull has to cover it’s bases and also think to the future. It’s had a great run in developing young drivers and bringing them on to win races without having had to pay them huge salaries on the way. But Kvyat appears to have plateaued and the pipeline of next generation drivers doesn’t look too great now.
It costs $30m a year to hire Lewis Hamilton and Vettel now commands the same, but he was on a fraction of that when he was winning his four world titles with Red Bull.
And Ricciardo and Verstappen, while not poor, are not paid close to what Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel get. Yet they are top line F1 drivers, who would win races and championships if the car was a bit faster.
What do you think? What should Sainz do next? Leave your comment in the section below